Recently one of our Osteopaths, Shaun Richardson, attended an intensive course on Dry Needling. This is a type of treatment that works well in conjunction with our other Osteopathic manual techniques, and is used to target trigger points (knots) in tight muscles.
It uses extremely fine acupuncture needles (0.25mm in diameter up to 20X smaller than a normal hypodermic needle) which allow us to target deep tissues extremely specifically and accurately. The effect of inserting these needles varies depending upon the desired outcome. Most of the time, we are aiming to deactivate and normalise hypersensitive and overactive muscles.
By inserting the needles we can elicit a twitch response from the muscles, providing a release of tightness. It can reduce the excitability of nerves locally as well as in the spinal cord and brain, inhibiting pain sensation and tightness. It also stimulates an immune response, releasing growth factors and promoting healing.
Needling can break fibrotic tissues containing free nerve endings, and wash away irritating substances. Simply put, overall the needles can reduce muscle tightness and pain, thereby enabling better healing.
Obviously there has been lots of research into this area, and the theories postulated as to how it work are quite complicated. Regardless of the finer neurophysiological mechanisms, it is an extremely effective technique for certain conditions repetitive strain injuries, acute spasms, chronic myosfascial tightness and of course trigger points. It enables us to target the deep seated stubborn knots that often underlie conditions such as tennis elbow and shin splints. It is very safe, and really only contraindicated in patients with bleeding disorders, or those who are pregnant.
The needles are never re-used, practitioners wear gloves and the needles are disposed of in a sharps container. Naturally if you are uncomfortable at any time with the treatment they can be immediately removed and alternative options can be discussed. Hopefully over the coming weeks both Julia and I will be able to introduce some of you to the benefits of this modality!
Does it hurt?
It would be remiss of me not to address the first question everyone has: Does it hurt? The honest answer is that yes, it can. I can pay tribute to that fact having had hundreds of needles jabbed into me over the weekend!
Having said that though, most of the time it doesn’t. The needles are exceptionally fine, and you often don’t feel anything when they pierce the skin. Once they are pushed deeper, it varies most of the time we are actively seeking out sore points so yes naturally it is sensitive, but the sensation is more like a heaviness, or an ache rather than a sharp stab. If we elicit a twitch response, there is a sharper sensation for a millisecond, then it’s gone.
Overall, the needles aren’t pleasant, but they aren’t anywhere near as horrible as the name suggests. As mentioned above, they are up to 20x smaller than the needles used for injections at the doctors.
As most of you know, most of our soft tissue massage techniques aren’t exactly pleasant either! So the needling gets in deeper, gets out quicker, and is a short period of discomfort instead of 15 minutes of us stripping back muscle fibers. It’s not for everyone, but most of the time its quicker, easier, less painful, and gets a wider reaching release.
If you would like to know more, please email Shaun Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can direct you towards the research articles!